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U.S. Nat. Sec.

Policy Final

U.S. Policy in Afghanistan

Robert Swope

Introduction This paper examines United States strategy in Afghanistan. It begins with a look at past U.S. policy before going into detail about the changes made since President Obama took office. The paper concludes with a consideration of some of the issues that may influence U.S. strategy in the future.

U.S. Policy: 1921-2001 In 1919 the Third Anglo-Afghan War ended with a temporary armistice agreement known as the Treaty of Rawalpindi, in which the United Kingdom somewhat ambiguously agreed to selfdetermination for Afghanistan (previously the British had controlled Afghan foreign policy and had been interfering in domestic affairs since the mid-1800s). Two years later negotiations for a long-term pact between the countries was concluded and the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1921 was put into force, with the British recognizing for the first time an independent and sovereign Afghanistan.1 That same year the American-Afghan relationship officially began with the establishment of formal state-to-state ties and the visit of an Afghan diplomatic legation to Washington, D.C. An American mission was soon sent to Kabul and was resident in the country until being elevated to Embassy status in 1948.2 From this beginning, on up until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, U.S. policy was one of development support and relationship strengthening for the purposes of ensuring the country did not become a Soviet satellite state and to help improve the livelihoods of the Afghan people who were, and remain, among the worlds poorest. During this period around $500 million (in todays dollars) in foreign assistance was sent by the U.S. to Afghanistan, mostly in the form of grants, concessionary loans, and food aid.3 A great deal of U.S.-financed

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infrastructure was also built before America transitioned its aid to the provision of technical assistance to strengthen Afghan governing institutions. Though the majority of assistance was not security-related, there was also a small military training program in the 1970s. With the Soviet invasion in December 1979 came an immediate stoppage of all U.S. assistance and the start of what became known as Operation Cyclone, the codename for the Central Intelligence Agencys program to support the Afghan mujahedeen, who were intent on pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The U.S. provided money, arms, and training to various insurgent groups with the goal of causing the Soviets to fail. Operation Cyclone was the CIAs largest and most expensive operation ever, with total spending well over a billion dollars.4 When the Russians left in 1989, U.S. interest in Afghanistan waned and reoriented toward Europe as the Soviet Union began to break apart, though the CIA continued to fund the mujahedeen until 1992.5 The American Embassy in Kabul also closed in 1989 and wouldnt reopen until December 2001.6 The U.S. maintained diplomatic relations with Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, but this ended when the state collapsed and devolved into civil war between 1992 and 1996. When the hardline Islamic group known as the Taliban eventually consolidated control over most of the country and declared itself the legitimate government of Afghanistan, the U.S. refused to recognize it.7 Under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, U.S. policy remained consistent, namely, a refusal to recognize the Taliban, along with political and economic pressure for the regime to moderate its policies and end its oppression of women.8 One notable event that occurred during this time period was the bombing in 1998 of four al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. This was in response to the role the organization played in attacks against two U.S. Embassies in Africa earlier in the year. The only major difference

U.S. Nat. Sec. Policy Final

U.S. Policy in Afghanistan

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between the two administrations appears to have been an increased emphasis on the part of President Bush to try and persuade Pakistan to reduce its support for the Taliban.9

U.S. Policy: 2001-2008 The September 11th, 2001 attacks against the United States had been masterminded by Osama Bin Laden who had been provided sanctuary in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration first asked Afghan authorities to turn him over, but when this was refused, the United States, together with British Special Forces, invaded the country and along with local resistance groups such as the Northern Alliance, deposed the Taliban. The Bush Administration policy was to then continue fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda while simultaneously build[ing] a relatively strong Afghan central government and economy, with political leadership that would no longer allow terrorist groups to find safe harbor.10 However, as noted in a recent Congressional Research Service report, most practitioners and observers agree that under the Bush Administration, the war in Afghanistan largely took a back seat, in terms of leadership time and attention, and resourcing, to the war in Iraq.11 Many have called the Bush Administrations strategy nation-building light. Furthermore, according to the report, the Bush Administration did not conduct [for Afghanistan] a rigorous internal strategic review or produce a formal written strategy along the lines of the November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, which clearly and specifically defined American strategic objectives in Iraq, the assumptions on which they were based, and the method by which they would be achieved.12 The Afghan war also appears to have been vastly under-resourced. For instance, the by year averages for troop levels between 2002 and 2008 were around 17,700.13 Most of the work on strengthening Afghan governing institutions has been done by other

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members of the international community, such as the United Nations, and other countries which have taken the lead outside the security sector while the U.S. focuses on continuing to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda and building the Afghan National Army.

The Obama Administrations Afghan Policy The United States policy in Afghanistan during the Obama Administration is markedly different from that under President George W. Bush. It is characterized by having more presidential attention devoted to it and the delivering of more resources to field, along with a series of strategy assessments, the continued declaration of a clear and specific goal, and a timeline for the end of the U.S. security mission. Americas current Afghan policy is encompassed in a series of four speeches and three strategy reviews, the latter of which all occurred in 2009, President Obamas first year in office. The first review, which included consultations with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as key international organizations, resulted in what Obama described as a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.14 This strategy was announced in a March 27, 2009 speech in which the president stated that the U.S.s core goal was to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.15 He noted key activities under this strategy would be increasing the size and capability of Afghan National Security Forces, as well as promoting a more capable and accountable Afghan government.16 Two months later in May, President Obama appointed General Stanley McChrystal to be the new senior US commander in Afghanistan after then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked General David McKiernan to resign while calling for fresh thinking and fresh eyes for

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the mission.17 McChrystal then initiated a 60-day initial assessment of the Afghan mission. The review, which was later leaked to the Washington Post and published in September 2009, said that the situation in Afghanistan was serious and deteriorating, and that failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (12 months) . . . risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.18 McChrystal in his recommendations called for more support for governance capacity-building and treating it as equally important as security. He also suggested raising Afghan National Security Force end strength to 400,000. Finally, he called for changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, the U.S.-led NATO alliance, to achieve greater unity of effort and closer interaction with the Afghan population General McChrystals review was followed by yet another White House review of strategy and resources in the Fall of 2009, which is covered in detail in Bob Woodwards book Obamas Wars.19 During the process American strategy was hotly debated with three main options presenting themselves. The first was a very narrow counter-terrorism mission where the United States mainly deployed Special Operations troops and stayed out of nation-building. The second option, referred to as CT-plus, involved continuing with counter-terrorism but also taking increased steps to build the capacity of Afghan security forces. The final option, more in line with General McChrystals recommendations, was a multi-faceted nation-building campaign that addressed governance and economic issues in Afghanistan. The President announced alterations to his strategy at a West Point speech in December 2009, reiterating for a second time the U.S. core goal of defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.20 He also stated that the main objectives of Americas Afghan effort would be to deny al Qaeda a safe

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haven, reverse the Talibans moment and deny it the ability to overthrow the government, and strengthen the capacity of Afghan security forces and the government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistans future.21 President Obama then announced a civilian surge, and that the U.S. would work more closely and effectively with Pakistan. He also said he was ordering an additional 30,000 troops to deploy (he had previously sent 17,000 more troops soon after inauguration).22 And he stated, for the first time, a conditions-based timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces, beginning in July 2011, but with no set end date.23 One year later President Obama made another major policy speech on Afghanistan Policy at the conclusion of the Afghanistan Pakistan Annual Review, which didnt revaluate strategy, but rather, gauged progress toward the current goals. In his statement he reiterated the basic mission. Ive been very clear about our core goal. Its not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And its not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation. Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.24 The president then went on to say the U.S. is seeing significant progress, but that the gains weve made are still fragile and reversible.25 He also announced that a transition to full Afghan lead for security . . . will begin early next year [2011] and will conclude by 2014.26 He then stressed the U.S. would have a long-term commitment to Afghanistan in the form of a new strategic partnership, though did not state what it would look like. The world did discover some of what such a commitment would entail when on April 22nd, 2012, the U.S. and Afghanistan announced a ten-year partnership agreement that would go into effect following the 2014 deadline for troop withdrawal. The agreement will not be official

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until signed by Presidents Obama and Karzai, and lacks a lot of specifics, but it does state that the U.S. will provide financial support for Afghanistan on up until 2024 and the U.S. will help with bolstering Afghan democracy and civil society.27 Not much else is known, including whether or not a deal will be struck for a troop contingent to remain in a security or training capacity. According to one U.S. official, the nature, function and size of the U.S. security commitment still has to be worked out.28 President Obamas most recent policy speech on Afghanistan occurred over a year ago in June 2011, and in it he reaffirmed the U.S. core goal, in addition to the U.S. commitment to transition security to the Afghans and redeploy U.S. troops by the end of 2014.29 He also announced the U.S. was holding peace talks with the Taliban and was working toward a political settlement between the Afghan government and all opposition groups, including the Taliban, so long as they would accept the Afghan constitution, renounce al Qaeda, and agree to work through a peaceful political process to achieve their aims.30 To this end the Taliban has opened up an office in Qatar and discussions have occurred, however, this past March the Taliban cancelled talks, accusing U.S. officials of lying to them as to the preconditions for the talks.31 As it stands now, despite the new partnership announcement, responsibility for security in Afghanistan is supposed to be taken over by the Afghan government by the end of 2014. According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that may occur even earlier. Hopefully by mid- to the latter part of 2013, he said recently, well be able to make a transition from a combat role.32 Whether any troops remain beyond 2014 depends upon whether or not an agreement is reached to keep them there.

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Issues Impacting Future U.S. Policy on Afghanistan There are a variety of issues that impact U.S. policy in Afghanistan in the near-term, particularly as it relates to the issue of whether or not American troops remain in the country. The most influential is the position of the Afghan government. If the existing power structure sees continued military involvement as in their interest (to prevent state collapse, for example, or because it works towards their financial betterment), then it is likely the government would be amenable to an agreement that extends the American troop presence. Much will depend on the views of current high-level Afghan officials such as Hamid Karzai and the man who replaces him in next years Presidential election (Karzai is constitutionally barred from a third term). There are other reasons why the Afghans may decide they want U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan following 2014. One is that a long-term security presence may still be needed, particularly in terms of training and other forms of military support outside a direct combat role. In April, the Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak said it is crucial that U.S. troops remain to give the right messages to the citizenry and Afghan opposition groups.33 The number itself is not that much important, he said. The strategic implications will be more important than the physical number of troops.34 As it stands now, the Afghans will need continued air support and financing from the U.S. if it is to maintain current force levels. Economics is also a key consideration affecting policy, one that impacts reasons why Afghans might want a large U.S. presence to remain, or why the U.S. itself might not want to have a large presence beyond 2014. About 90% of the total Afghan budget for 2011, according to the World Bank, comes from foreign donations in the form of budget support.35 Most of this is from U.S. assistance. Furthermore, much of the revenue the government receives from taxes is derived from American military and civilian spending.36 This situation, the World Bank

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says, cannot be sustained, and it predicts that by 2018 approximately 90% of the aid sent to Afghanistan will be gone, something that is likely to happen a lot quicker once international forces begin to leave.37 Already the level of economic and humanitarian aid sent to Afghanistan by the U.S. has dwindled from $4.1 billion in 2010 to $2.5 billion in 2011.38 The Afghan government may come to realize that continued international presence is necessary to stave off an economic crisis. On the other hand, the U.S. is experiencing a fiscal crunch of its own, and in order to reduce deficit levels, may decide to further wind down its presence in the country so as to save money which it can then devote to other problems here at home. A final key factor is the opinions of both Afghans and Americans. Afghan support for America has taken a beating recently, such as with the accidental burnings of Korans earlier this year which led to riots and revenge killings of American service members. The recent mass killing spree of Army soldier Robert Bales against innocent Afghan villagers has also exacerbated tensions. Similarly, more Americans than ever are questioning the reasoning behind the United States continued presence in Afghanistan. A New York Times poll taken in March 2012 showed that 69% of Americans believe the U.S. should no longer remain in Afghanistan.39 Public opinion will play a role in determining the amount of money Americans are willing to continue spending in Afghanistan, and the amount of U.S. involvement Afghans are willing to allow.

Conclusion This paper has discussed U.S. policy in Afghanistan, starting with the beginning of the AfghanAmerican relationship following Afghanistans independence from Britain. We have seen that throughout the relationship American national security concerns have influenced United States

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policy toward the country. During the Cold War our goal in Afghanistan was to prevent it from becoming a Soviet satellite state, and to this end we sent around half a billion dollars in foreign aid money. When the Soviets invaded, we vastly increased our commitment and ran a hot war using Afghan proxies. With the Soviet Union defeated and breaking apart, our interests waned and we focused on other matters, only to be sucked in again after the September 11th attacks which had been organized by Osama bin Laden, who had been given sanctuary in Afghanistan. Though he called for building the Afghan nation, President George W. Bush severely under resourced the mission and focused his time and attention elsewhere. As a result the goals of nation-building and stability were not achieved and Afghanistan became more dangerous over time. When President Obama took office, he conducted a series of strategy reviews, and ultimately more than doubled the U.S. commitment while sending more civilian personnel to help strengthen the government. He also very clearly limited the mission to a core goal of defeating al Qaeda while building the capacity of Afghan National Security Forces and strengthening Afghan governing institutions. President Obama eventually set a withdrawal deadline of 2014. Moving forward, the U.S.s Afghan policy will be influenced by factors such as the views of Afghan governing officials, the security situation, economic concerns, and public opinion. The U.S. and Afghanistan recently agreed to a long-term strategic relationship lasting at least until 2024, the specifics of which still need to be determined. It remains to be seen how future events and Afghan and American desires will influence U.S. security policy and troop deployments post-2014.

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Encyclopedia Iranica. Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1921: The outcome of peace negotiations following the Third Anglo-Afghan War. [Website Entry] http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/anglo-afghan-treaty-of-1921-theoutcome-of-peace-negotiations-following-the-third-anglo-afghan-war (accessed April 18, 2012).
2

U.S. Embassy Afghanistan. About Us. [Website Entry] http://kabul.usembassy.gov/previous-us-ata.html (accessed April 18, 2012).
3

Meridian International Center. In the Small Things Remembered: The Early Years of U.S.-Afghan Relations. [Website Entry] http://www.meridian.org/insmallthingsremembered/ (accessed April 18, 2012).
4

Bergen, Peter. Holy War, Inc. (New York: Free Press, 2002), 68

National Security Archive. Volume II: Afghanistan: Lessons from the Last War. George Washington University. [Website Entry]. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/us.html (accessed April 18, 2012).
6

U.S. Embassy Afghanistan. About Us: Previous U.S. Ambassadors to Afghanistan. [Website Entry] http://kabul.usembassy.gov/previous-us-ata.html (accessed April 18, 2012).
7

U.S. Congressional Research Service. Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy. (RL30588; Apr. 4, 2012), by Kenneth Katzman. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL30588.pdf (accessed: April 12, 2012, pps 5-7
8

Ibid, pps. 5-7 Ibid, pg. 7 Ibid, pg. 8

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11

U.S. Congressional Research Service. War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress.. (RL40156; Mar. 9, 2011), by Catherine Dale. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40156.pdf (accessed: April 9, 2012, pg. 7
12

Ibid, pg. 7

13

U.S. Congressional Research Service. Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues (RL40682; Jul. 2, 2009), by Amy Belasco. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40682.pdf (accessed: April 20, 2012), pg. 9
14

Obama, Barack. Remarks by The President on a New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mar. 29, 2009. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-on-a-New-Strategy-forAfghanistan-and-Pakistan (accessed: April 15, 2012).
15

Ibid. Ibid.

16

17

Tyson, Ann Scott. Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan is Fired. The Washington Post. May 12, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/11/AR2009051101864.html (accessed April 20, 2012).
18

McChrystal, Stanley. COMSAF Initial Assessment. August 30, 2009. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/politics/documents/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdf (accessed April 20, 2012).
19

Woodward, Bob. Obamas Wars. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010).

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20

Obama, Barack. Remarks by The President to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dec. 1, 2009. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-wayforward-afghanistan-and-pakistan (accessed: April 15, 2012).
21

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

22

23

24

Obama, Barack. Statement by the President on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review. Dec. 16, 2010. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/16/statement-president-afghanistan-pakistanannual-review (accessed: April 15, 2012).
25

Ibid. Ibid.

26

27

Sieff, Kevin. Afghanistan, U.S. reach pact on post-2014 American support. The Washington Post. April 22, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/afghanistan-us-reach-pact-on-post-2014-americansupport/2012/04/22/gIQAtnVNaT_story.html (accessed April 15, 2012).
28

Ibid.

29

Obama, Barack. Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan. Jun. 22, 2011. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/22/remarks-president-way-forward-afghanistan (accessed: April 15, 2012).
30

Ibid.

31

32

Whitlock, Craig, & Karen DeYoung. Panetta: U.S., NATO will seek to end Afghan combat mission next year. The Washington Post. February 2, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/panetta-us-nato-will-seek-to-end-afghancombat-mission-next-year/2010/07/28/gIQAriZJiQ_print.html (accessed April 15, 2012).
33

DeYoung, Karen. Afghan officials stress need for U.S. security presence beyond 2014 withdrawal. The Washington Post. April 10, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/afghan-officials-stressneed-for-us-security-presence-beyond-2014-withdrawal/2012/04/10/gIQAP9wF9S_print.html (accessed April 15, 2012).
34

Ibid.

35

Rubin, Alissa J. World Bank Issues Alert on Afghanistan Economy. New York Times. November 22, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/world/asia/world-bank-issues-alert-on-afghanistan-economy.html (accessed April 7, 2012).
36

Ibid.

37

Nordland, Rod. Aid Agencies in Afghanistan Fear Reversals After U.S. Exit. New York Times. December 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/world/asia/us-withdrawal-from-afghanistan-worries-aidgroups.html?pagewanted=all (accessed April 15, 2012).

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38

Georgy, Michael and Hamid Shalizi. Afghanistan Set for Econmic Crisis. The Fiscal Times. March 12, 2012. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/03/12/Afghanistan-Set-for-Economic-Crisis.aspx#page1 (accessed April 15, 2012)
39

Bumiller, Elisabeth. Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds The New York Times. March 26, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/world/asia/support-for-afghan-war-falls-in-us-poll-finds.html (accessed April 15, 2012).

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